Preventing, Reversing and Managing Diabetes Naturally
Attending to the miracle of our body’s metabolism—which consists of numerous processes that include the digestion of food for growth and energy—is critical to good health. Diabetes, a metabolic disorder, is a serious threat to these processes as well as for any hope of anti-aging and longevity.
Types of Diabetes
There are four types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, and Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA). In Type 1 (not caused by eating or lifestyle habits), the immune system destroys the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas.
Type 2, caused by lifestyle and eating habits, is a metabolic disorder in which the cells are unable to use insulin. Healthy lifestyle changes and better eating habits, if made when symptoms are first identified, may be able to reverse type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, typically disappears afterwards. Women who had it are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. LADA is autoimmune form of diabetes in which the death of the beta cells occurs over a span of years rather than rapidly.
The American Diabetes Association advises that 8.1 million of the 29.1 individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes were previously unaware and had not detected the earliest symptoms.
Telltale signs of diabetes are dry mouth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constant hunger (even after meals), unusual weight gain or loss, and lack of energy. According to Registered Dietician Kathy Napoli, founder and owner of Nutra Partners, in Alamo, a significant number of clients detected no symptoms and only learned of their condition from a doctor ordered routine blood test. “I recommend an annual blood test of fasting blood glucose levels and suggest an A1C glycated hemoglobin blood test, which is a reading of blood sugar levels over a three-month period. Physical symptoms are important to note because Type 2 diabetics have the same signs,” says Napoli, nutritionist and owner of Nutra Partners, in Alamo.
“Fatigue after eating a meal can also be an indicator of pre-diabetes and diabetes. Managing the extra blood sugar level from poor food and drink choices requires a lot of energy and causes an inflammatory response. If untreated, later symptoms may include numbness and tingling of the extremities (hands/feet), as well as the tingling pain or discomfort of neuropathy in the hands and feet. These can indicate nerve damage as a result of high blood sugar levels. “Complications caused by diabetes include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision problems,” explains Saskia Kleinert, a nutritionist and holistic integrative health practitioner who is also the director of Emeryville Health & Wellness Center, in Emeryville.
Blood Sugar (Glucose) Levels
Normal blood glucose levels vary throughout the day. For healthy individuals a fasting blood sugar level on awakening is less than 100 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl) of blood. Before meals, normal levels are between 70-99 mg/dl.
Individuals who have developed early stages of insulin resistance will not always experience high blood glucose levels, but without medical intervention those with Type 1 diabetes will experience extremely high glucose levels. Fasting glucose levels should vary between 100-125. A fasting glucose level above 126 is an indicator that lifestyle changes are needed to avoid progression into full Type 2 diabetes.
High Risk Groups
Napoli and Kleinert cite high-risk groups for Type 2 diabetes: individuals who consume large amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugars, and those who have an exceedingly sedentary lifestyle that includes unhealthy processed foods.
Fluctuating Blood Sugar
Rollercoaster sugar levels are irritating to the nerves and weaken the lining of blood vessels. They contribute to neuropathies in the legs and lead to retinopathy. Fluctuations raise triglycerides, a type of fat (lipid) that circulates in the blood along with cholesterol. Triglycerides are an important measure of heart health. An excessive amount of 200 to 499 mg/dl of blood can lead to a risk of stroke and heart attack.
An awareness of risk factors, such as a family history of diabetes, is important in early detection. “With this knowledge and fully informed by a medical professional regarding the necessary steps to prevent diabetes from progressing to the next stage, the individual knows what types of realistic changes can be supportive and how to go about making them,” says Jamie Coughlan, a Naturopathic Doctor who practices in Pleasanton and Pleasant Hill.
Making the most impactful choices is critical in the earliest stages. “Napoli, Kleinert and Coughlan educate patients and help them integrate dietary changes. Their patient education includes the necessity of eating low glycemic index foods and reducing blood glucose levels while increasing healthy fats such as nuts, avocado and olive oil.
Antioxidant rich plant foods are also a critically important component of an effective dietary plan. As experienced health practitioners, they are alarmed by the nationwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes as well as the increased number of teenagers in different stages of diabetes.
The Role of Exercise
Coughlan’s patient education includes emphasis on the role of cardiovascular and resistance training exercises in reversing pre-diabetes and managing diabetes for diagnosed individuals. “Exercise increases the muscle cell’s demand for glucose, moving glucose out of the blood and into muscle cells,” she explains.
Control and Reversal
There is no quick fix for preventing and reversing diabetes. Restoration of health begins with the most important health lifestyle changes required—replacing processed and sugary foods with nutrient-dense whole foods, determining possible food sensitivities with an elimination diet, eating some protein with every meal, eliminating environmental toxins, performing a form of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training at least three to five times a week, and adding stress-relieving practices such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong.
Coughlan is an expert in herbs and supplements and often recommends several for managing, preventing or reversing diabetes. Herbs such as turmeric reduce inflammation and berberine can help cells use glucose efficiently. Supplements such as vitamin C, B complex, resveratrol and pycnogenol can raise antioxidant levels, which Coughlan advises most pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals are deficient in. “I prefer to recommend the dosage and usage on an individual basis,” advises Coughlan.
NutraPartners, 3189 Danville Blvd., Ste. 260, Alamo. 925- 831-3900. Visit NutraPartners.com.
Emeryville Health & Wellness Center, 1240 Powell St., Emeryville, 510-653-8263, IntegrativeHealthNutrition.com.
Iron Horse Naturopathic Medicine, Offices in Pleasanton and Pleasant Hill. Call 925-362-4686 or visit DrJamieCoughlan.com.Edit ModuleShow Tags